Veterans' Review Board
Home | About the VRB | Contact us | Members and Staff | Publications | Factsheets | ADR trial | Links | Notices | Vacancies | Site map

Full version of VRB Annual report (PDF 6.3 MB)

Veterans’ Review Board
Annual Report 2014–15

The Veterans’ Review Board has prepared this report on its operations for the year ending 30 June 2015 in accordance with subsection 215(4) of the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986.

This report adheres to the Requirements for Departmental Annual Reports issued by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, to the extent that they are relevant to the Board’s operations.

The Principal Member is responsible for the Veterans’ Review Board’s operations. The Principal Member’s Report begins the Board’s Annual Report and summarises the key outcomes and developments for the Board in 2014-15:

Principal Member’s Report

I am very pleased to report that the Board again finalised more applications than it received in 2014-15

This year has been one of innovation and achievement for the Board. I am very pleased to report that this year the Board completed 3066 reviews and finalised more cases than were received (2707), continuing to steadily reduce the number of active cases on hand.  This was the fourth consecutive year that the Board managed such a positive outcome within a further reduced budget allocation. This is a significant achievement and I want to acknowledge and congratulate the members and staff of the Board for their efforts in bringing this about.

It is important to note that the reduction in the number of active cases on hand has also been completed in a quick manner.  The Board’s General Practice Direction sets out the aim for appeals to be finalised within 12 months of lodgement.  Over the last three financial years the average time taken to finalise appeals was just under 12 months and in 2014-15 the Board has again met its time standard.

For our applicants these impressive results mean improved service and speedier finalisations. Ever more, at the Board we are able to say that we deliver reviews that are fair, just, economical, informal and quick.  This combined with the Board’s very strong understanding of the unique nature of service is one of the main reasons why the Board received strong support from Ex-Service Organisations for the Board to remain as a standalone merits review Tribunal, in the context of the wider amalgamation of Commonwealth Tribunals this year. 

By implementing new work practices and case management powers, flowing from the Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (Mental Health and other Measures) Bill 2014, we have also been able to reduce the number of older cases on hand. Since August 2014, the Board has held 198 Directions hearings. These hearings have been held generally where there has been no significant progress in bringing a matter on for hearing. Directions hearings are designed to ascertain the reasons for the delay and to ensure the matter progresses. If there are delays on the part of the Department, they have also been asked to attend and provide explanation. 

The first six months in the life of the Board’s very first trial of ADR has been challenging, exciting and rewarding.  The trial commenced on 1 January 2015 for all new applications lodged in NSW and the ACT. At the end of the first six months of the trial, over 51% of applications which had proceeded to the very first step in the model, an outreach with a Conference Registrar, had been finalised without the need for a hearing. On average, applications were finalised within 27 days of referral to the ADR trial.  This, in itself, for the first six months of the trial is an impressive achievement. The Board expects this figure may fluctuate depending on the sample size of the trial over the next six months and the speed of finalisations will continue to be influenced by the parties to the review. However, the initial results are encouraging.

While not part of the trial, the Board continued to harness limited ADR processes in all other locations, specifically case appraisal and neutral evaluation. Of those matters referred for a case appraisal in 2014-15, more than 42.5 per cent of VEA matters and 53.7 per cent of MRCA matters resulted in a favourable decision on the papers being published, continuing the trend from the previous year.

Further innovations and efficiencies will be pursued in 2015-16, with initiatives including a possible extension of the trial of ADR, moving to more electronic communication with applicants and updating our case management system.  The need for a new case management system is becoming more pressing given its lack of functionality and inability to be modified to meet current business needs. The Board however understands that a replacement system will need to be considered in the light of available funding.

During the year the Board continued our engagement with the veteran community. Regular advocate liaison meetings were held across the country and provided a forum for the Board to update interested parties on significant developments, such as the recent amendments and new work practices, to enable them to give feedback to the Board. The Board also continued to provide practice notes for advocates on case law developments and again published its annual journal, VeRBosity.

In addition to advocate’s forums, the Board also continued to issue its user satisfaction survey. These provided very positive feedback on Board services. The most recent survey reported that over 81.7 per cent of all applicants who had attended a Board hearing and received a published decision were extremely satisfied. This is an impressive level, given that all responders to the survey may not have received a favourable outcome in respect of his or her appeal.

As in previous years, there were changes in the membership and staff of the Board during 2014-15. I would like to record my thanks for the contributions made by those members whose time at the Board came to an end during this period including Moira Brophy, Edward Jolly, Allan Anforth and Deborah Morgan.

I would like to acknowledge the very good work, dedication and commitment of staff and members during 2014-15, and I thank them for their hard work and support.

Doug Humphreys
Principal Member
Veterans’ Review Board

The VRB at a glance 2014-15
Applications lodged 2707
Applications decided 3066
Applications on hand 2507
% of matters set aside 41.1%
% of matters affirmed 58.9%
Average time taken to decide an application (weeks) 51
% of decided cases where applicant represented 88.5%
Hearings arranged 2271
Directions hearings arranged 198
% of decided cases where hearing held 55.1%
% of applications appealed to the AAT 13.6%
Members 37
Staff 24
Cost $5.42M

See the full version of VRB Annual report (PDF 6.3 MB)